The National Commission for the Evaluation of Prisoners yesterday reviewed more than 500 inmates who have applied to be pardoned or have their sentences reduced to mark next month’s Water Festival.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana, chairman of the NCEP, led the meeting attended by officials from the Council of Ministers, National Police, and General Department of Prisons.
Soch Sophannara, deputy director-general of the General Department of Prosecutors and Criminal Affairs at the Justice Ministry, said that about 15 percent of 512 inmates, especially Vietnamese and Chinese, have applied for clemency.
“We have 512 prisoners, including 58 women, who have requested to be pardoned or get reduced sentences,” Mr Sophannara said. “There are about 10 to 15 percent out of the 512 prisoners who are foreigners; they are Vietnamese, Chinese and other foreigners who have submitted their requests.”
However, officials could not say yesterday how many inmates will be pardoned.
The prisoners are from 23 provinces and the Interior Ministry’s four administered correctional facilities.
Inmates generally have three periods to request to be pardoned: Khmer New Year in April, the Water Festival in November and Visak Bochea Day in May.
However, in a bid to reduce overcrowding prisons, the government last year decided to extend the periods to review pardon requests during Pchum Ben in October, Independence Day in November and Win-Win Policy Day in December.
Mr Sophannara said pardons were made based on each inmate’s redress.
“It depends on the prisoners who have changed their attitudes, and obey rules of the prison,” he said. “There are many offences, but the commission is reviewing those who committed offences that are not serious to society.”
Mr Sophannara said that the commission will not give clemency to child rapists and other serious criminals.
Lieutenant General Ouch Pong, deputy director-general of the General Department of Prisons, said that the prisons are facing overcrowding.
“There are 340,000 inmates, including 1,000 women, who have been jailed nationwide,” Lt Gen Pong said.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator at rights group Licadho, said civil society organisations welcomed clemency reviews, but noted that jailed human rights defenders and political prisoners should be included.
“We want to see decisions made in accordance with the law, and be just for all prisoners who have met all criteria,” he said.